President Cyril Ramaphosa’s security adviser Sydney Mufamadi denies describing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an act of “aggression”.
The White House said in a statement on Tuesday that Mufamadi and his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan, had “highlighted the need for an immediate end to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine”.
According to the White House, Sullivan also stressed that the US was ready to work with South Africa in tackling the “crisis in Ukraine”.
The Russian invasion’s impact on supply chains, commodity prices and food security in Africa was also discussed.
The statement raised eyebrows because Ramaphosa and his government have so far maintained a position of neutrality over the war in Ukraine.
In Business Day on Thursday, Mufamadi distanced himself from the statement.
Although he and Sullivan “agreed about a number of things on how to move forward with respect to cooperation between our two countries, particularly our two offices”, Mufamadi said he did not use the words the White House had attributed to him.
Mufamadi said: We had a good discussion. I didn’t issue a statement. They issued a statement and used the language they are accustomed to, which isn’t our language.
This is not the first time that the US has given a different interpretation of a high-level conversation with South Africa.
After Ramaphosa and US President Joe Biden spoke to each other on April 8, Biden stressed in a statement that there should be a “clear, united international response to Russian aggression in Ukraine”.
Ramaphosa’s statement about the call did not mention a wake-up call for unity or Russian “aggression”.
“We shared views on the conflict in Ukraine and agreed on the need for a ceasefire and dialogue between Ukraine and Russia,” was all he said in the statement on the war.
The call between Biden and Ramaphosa followed a day after South Africa, for the third time, abstained from voting at the UN on the question of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
South Africa abstained on a resolution against the invasion, a resolution blaming Russia for the attacks in Ukraine and a resolution to expel Russia from the UN Security Council. All three resolutions were adopted with a large majority.
Several foreign ambassadors to South Africa condemned its government’s “neutral stance” on the war in Ukraine.
However, government maintains that its position is justified because Russia must be part of the solution to the conflict in Ukraine.